Eastgate Shopping Centre (Basildon)
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The development of Basildon as a new town began during the fifties and was based upon creating housing and employment for residents, many of whom moved from London. Many large companies moved to the town as industrial estates sprung up on the outskirts with a modern road system to provide links to the major trunk roads, the A127 and the A13. Although mergers, acquisitions and the restructuring of manufacturing industry have since changed the profile of local businesses the industrial areas remain a major source of employment in south east Essex.
Development of Basildon Town Centre also dates from the fifties and by 1970 it comprised 70 acres (280,000 m2) and 205 stores of all sizes totalling 1,100,000 sq ft (100,000 m2) of retail space. It was one of the largest pedestrian precincts in Britain, with entertainment and leisure facilities, an open-air market, car parking for 5,000 vehicles and bus and railway stations. By the mid-1970s, shopping and commercial facilities had not kept pace with an expanding population and increased visitors. A decision was therefore taken by Basildon Development Corporation to dedicate more space to better shopping facilities to give Basildon added status as a major town centre for retailers.
Today the borough of Basildon has a population of more than 160,000 residents.
Eastgate Shopping Centre was opened in stages between 1980 and 1985. The first store to open was SavaCentre in March 1980. This was followed by the completion of Phase 1 and the opening of Allders in 1983. Phase 2 of development was completed in 1985 when the centre was officially opened to much acclaim by Prince Edward. The original owner of Eastgate was Norwich Union, who also owned the former CGU office block attached to the shopping centre. Today, Eastgate is owned by British Land.
When Eastgate opened it was the largest shopping centre in Essex, and one of the largest in the UK. According to the District Council, at this time Basildon town centre "had the most advanced indoor shopping centre anywhere". It was a novelty as there were no other malls nearby and as a result it became very busy.
The Eastgate of the eighties comprised two giant stores. The first, a Sainsbury’s SavaCentre hypermarket was replaced with an Asda store in 2004, while a year later the then Allders was replaced with a Debenham's store.
Improvements to Eastgate
Eastgate has undergone a number of facelifts since 1985. Its most recent substantial refurbishment was in 2007, at a cost of more than £10m, which included the opening of new toilets and baby care facilities, and replacing lifts, lighting, escalators, floors and fascias, plus a completely redesigned Food Terrace area with expanded seating for around 50% more covers. In 2012 Eastgate's multi story car park underwent a major refurbishment including new lighting, bigger parking spaces, new tarmac and a new paint scheme.
The Centre has four levels. The ground and first floors are house most of the stores, while the second and third floors are branded as "The Galleries" where smaller independent retailers trade.
At 203,000 and 165,000 sq ft (15,300 m2) respectively Eastgate's Debenham's and ASDA are their companies' largest superstores in the region. Other names among its hundred-plus stores including Next, HMV, River Island, H&M, Primark and New Look. In 2010 a brand new Topshop and Topman opened, while the adjacent New Look underwent a major refurbishment with vastly increased floorspace on the Upper Mall that year. New stores have continued to join Eastgate's extensive portfolio. These include a large Poundworld in East Walk, while Carphone Warehouse relocated to the Centre from the Town Square during autumn.
The Centre has its own multi-storey car park with room for nearly 1,000 vehicles, and Asda also has a large car park and a petrol station.
Located on the ground floor of the mall is a plaque commemorating the opening with a time capsule. A copy of the Evening Echo of the day it opened is thought to be inside.
On the Upper Mall of the shopping centre is the Cats Cradle Pussiwillow III Clock. It was created by Rowland Emett in 1981. and was originally placed outside what is now ASDA on the Lower Mall of the shopping centre.
The clock is one of a number of notable Basildon works of contemporary art. The Mother and Child statue in the Town Square was created by Maurice Lambert. It was commissioned in 1959 to symbolise the growth of Basildon as a New Town. Above the Bus Station, just outside Eastgate, is a 315 ft (96 m) x 13 ft (4.0 m) mosaic of 16,000 individual tiles created by the artist John Gordon in the 1960s. Slightly further away from the shopping centre stands St. Martin's Bell Tower, a glass tower, unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II on 12 March 1999.
In December 2003 and December 2004 a radio station, Eastgate FM, was launched on a 28-day restricted-service license (RSL). The station broadcast during the run up to Christmas. A previous incarnation of Eastgate FM broadcast in June 1999.
These were the forerunners of a community radio project and since 2007 Eastgate has sponsored and hosted Gateway 97.8 (formally Gateway FM) which broadcasts from a shop studio unit in the Upper Galleries with other facilities dotted around the community. Gateway won a full-time community licence for the area to broadcast for five years from 25 September 2010 on 97.8FM, and provides media and broadcasting training for the community from its Eastgate home. Gateway was declared a winner of Prime Minister David Cameron's Big Society Awards for outstanding community work in December 2011 and in 2012 The Queen gave Gateway the Queens award for voluntary service the MBE for groups.